Jüdischer Friedhof in Worms
Jüdischer Friedhof in Worms

Jewish Cemetery “Holy Sands”

A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Europe’s oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe has about 2000 graves, the oldest dated around 1058/1059, and is part of the ShUM Sites Speyer, Worms, Mainz - UNESCO world heritage - Jewish heritage for the world. From the part of the cemetery on the former city ramparts there is an impressive view of the cathedral. This is the so-called "Martin Buber View".

The Jewish Cemetery is open

  • Please note the Opening times 
  • Male visitors to the Jewish Cemetery must wear a skullcap or other headgear
  • There are guided tours for visitors
  • Use the ShUM-App (SchUM-App ) for a digital guided tour of the Jewish Cemetery!
Der "Heilige Sand", ältester jüdischer Friedhof Europas (Foto: Bernward Bertram)
Der "Heilige Sand", ältester jüdischer Friedhof Europas (Foto: Bernward Bertram)

The ancient Jewish cemetery “Holy Sands” is still today of great importance for Jews worldwide. Many influential Jewish scholars and rabbis are buried here. The oldest gravestones date from the year 1058/59 and thus document the first great flourishing of the Jewish Community in Worms, which can be traced back to around the year 1000.
The “Holy Sands” is thus the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe that has been preserved in situ.

The “Holy Sands” – an important cultural monument

jüdischer Friedhof, Foto: R. Uhrig
jüdischer Friedhof, Foto: R. Uhrig

The ancient Jewish cemetery is undoubtedly one of the most important cultural monuments in the city of Worms. Because of its age, its uninterrupted use over centuries, its state of preservation, the number and importance of the Jewish people of Worms who are buried here, and also because of the unique and rich stock of inscriptions covering a period of almost 900 years, it is of European significance.
Jewish visitors come to Worms, known in Jewish texts as “Jerusalem on the Rhine”, to see the graves of Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg (d. 1293) und Alexander ben Salomon Wimpfen (d. 1307). Other important graves are to be found especially in and near the so-called “Valley of the Rabbis”. These include the graves of Rabbi Nathan ben Issak (d. 1333), Rabbi Jakob ben Moses halevi, called MaHaRil, (d. 1427), Rabbi Meir ben Isaak (d. 1511) and Elia Loanz, called Baal-Schem (d. 1636).

ShUM Sites / UNESCO World Heritage Sites

The foundation of a synagogue in 1034 and the fact that many rabbis worked here from the 11th century led to this Jewish community, together with those in Mainz and Speyer, becoming those of the ShUM cities. „ShUM" consists of the first letters in the Hebrew alphabet of the names of the three communities.
The decisions made by the synods of these cities were binding for German Jews. Worms developed into one of the most important centres of Jewish learning on the Rhine with an influence extending far into the Ashkenazic area to the east. Ashkenaz was the Hebrew word for Germany.
In July 2021, the UNESCO inscribed the Testimony to Jewish Life of the ShUM Sites of Speyer, Worms and Mainz as the 50th World Heritage Site in Germany. In Worms, it is the Synagogue Compound with its synagogue, women’s shul and mikvah, and the former community hall, which, together with the Jewish Cemetery “Holy Sands” and as the heritage of Ashkenazic Jewry, are now part of world cultural heritage.

Middle Ages

The cemetery is outside the medieval city wall and to the south-west, and one important aspect of its history is the uninterrupted existence of a Jewish community from the 11th century until the time of the Nazis despite all the enforced expulsions and pogroms. In the Jewish faith, a cemetery is a place of eternal and inviolable peace, and this one is a mirror of the history of the community in Worms and its multifaceted relationship with the history of the city.
During the medieval period and in early modern times, the cemetery was repeatedly a potential target for violation by the people of Worms as part of pogroms and conflicts between the city and the Jewish community, for example in the years 1519 and 1615. Around 1260 the cemetery was extended and enclosed, and improvements were made following the removal of the outer defence wall after the damage suffered by the city in 1689. Further significant changes were made at the beginning of the 17th century, including the addition of a cleansing house for washing the dead before burial (Bet Tahara) and the inscription of a prayer for the dead (Kaddish) at the entrance to the cemetery.

Modern Age

Soon after the middle of the 19th century, the community began the task of copying and documenting the extremely valuable inscriptions in the cemetery, which were and still are in danger of becoming lost due to weathering and other influences. Despite a number of attempts and the gathering of material, these inscriptions have still not been comprehensively and scientifically analysed.
At the end of the 19th century, a new Jewish cemetery was needed, and it was established on the Hochheimer Höhe in 1911. The old cemetery was spared attacks and devastation during the years of Nazi dictatorship, but during the Second World War there was some isolated bomb damage.
After the end of the war, the cemetery was restored to a state befitting its significance by the city; damaged gravestones were restored as far as this was possible and justifiable, and the warden’s house was rebuilt.

A place of pilgrimage for Jewish visitors from all over the world

Jüdischer Friedhof  "Heiliger Sand"
Jüdischer Friedhof "Heiliger Sand"

Today, the cemetery belongs to the Jewish Congregation of Mainz, the successor in law to the former Jewish Congregation in Worms, and it is maintained by the city of Worms in accordance with a contractual agreement. Because of the large number of graves of well-known Jewish people, including many important scholars, rabbis, benefactors and martyrs, and also because of the high reputation of the former congregation in Worms as “Little Jerusalem”, it is a kind of pilgrimage destination for Jewish visitors from all over the world.


jüdischer Friedhof heiliger Sand, Foto: R: Uhrig
jüdischer Friedhof heiliger Sand, Foto: R: Uhrig

The cemetery, situated in the triangle formed by the Willy-Brandt-Ring (where the entrance is), Andreasstraße and the railway line, is divided into an older part on lower ground and a newer part on the remains of city ramparts, which were demolished in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The oldest gravestones – some 50 of them date from the 11th and 12th centuries – are to be found mainly in the southern part, and here the “Valley of the Rabbis” contains a particularly high concentration of graves of well-known scholars.

The total number of gravestones in the Holy Sands cemetery that have survived is around 2500. Almost all of them are in their original position. In contrast to the usual practice of the gravestones facing east, those in the Holy Sands cemetery in Worms face south, a feature for which no convincing explanation has so far been found.

Although it is not possible to identify a clear sequence among the gravestones, there are in some parts historical or family connections that can be detected. From the Late Middle Ages on, the cemetery also served as a burial place for nearby communities that did not have their own cemetery. There is an unusually large number of gravestones and they exhibit a richness of design and shape that is very rarely encountered.

The older part of the cemetery contains about 1150 gravestones that are still standing, and these date from the time between the late 11th century and the 17th century. The newer part has about 1250 gravestones that are still standing, dating from the 18th century until roughly 1911, when the Jewish Community established a new burial place on the Hochheimer Höhe and next to the new city cemetery. This new Jewish cemetery had a Hall of Mourning, which has survived.

Above all during the course of the 19th century, inscriptions in German on the gravestones and in general a grave culture that was closer to Christian traditions became more usual. This is evidence of the strong acculturation process towards the non-Jewish majority in Worms by the Jewish citizens, most of whom clearly held decidedly liberal views. Up until 1937 there were occasional burials in family graves, but since then the cemetery has not been used.

To the right of the entrance with its warden’s house there is running water for washing the hands and also the cleansing house (Bet Tahara) dating from around 1625, donated by David Oppenheimer, a rich benefactor and member of the Jewish community.

On the way to the new part and right in the northern section of the cemetery is the double grave of Rabbi Meir von Rothenburg (d. 1293) and Alexander Salomo ben Wimpfen (d. 1307), an exceptionally fine and often visited monument to the memory of two famous Ashkenazic Jews.

Why is the Jewish cemetery called "Holy Sands"?

jüdischer Friedhof heiliger Sand; Foto: R: Uhrig
jüdischer Friedhof heiliger Sand; Foto: R: Uhrig

According to one story, Jews settled in Worms as long ago as 600 BC and achieved considerable prosperity due to their industriousness and business sense. They were also considered to be extremely religious and attached to their new homeland. The Jewish priests in Jerusalem are said to have requested the Jews in Worms to return home to the Holy City of Jerusalem and to live there according to God’s laws, adding that if they did not, HE would punish them.

The Jews in Worms wrote back to the High Council in Jerusalem: “You live in the Promised Land, you have a temple; you have a holy city and we have one.“
And the cemetery of these Jews was called “Holy Sands”. It was strewn with sand that had been brought to Worms from Jerusalem, so great was their wealth.

Virtual tour on foot

take the virtual tour for areas you can´t walk :

ShUM-App: a digital experience of Jewish Worms and all the ShUM sites



jewish cemetery (Jüdischer Friedhof "Heiliger Sand")
Willy-Brandt-Ring 21
67547 Worms

Google Maps

Opening Hours

April to October
Sunday to Friday
9:30 am – 5pm, last admission 4:40 pm

November to March
Sunday to Friday
9:30 am-4 pm, last admission 3:40 pm

Saturday and Jewish festivals closed (see below)

Also closed:
on public holidays at Christmas, on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, Good Friday.

Please note:

changes are possible at short notice and the cemetery can be closed at any time. For details see the notice at the Jewish cemetery.

Admission is free

The Jewish cemetery is closed on the following Jewish festivals:

Pessach (23. - 30.04.24)
22.04.24 (closed from 2 pm)
23. + 24.04.24
29. + 30.04.24

Schawuoth (12. + 13.06.24)
11.06.24 (closed from 2 pm)
12. - 13.06.24

Rosch Haschana (3. + 4.10.24)
2.10.24 (closed from 2 pm)
3. + 4.10.24

Jom Kippur (12.10.24)
11.10.24 (closed from 2 pm)

Sukkot (17. / 18.10.24)
16.10.24 (closed from 2 pm)
17. + 18.10.24

Schemini Azereth (24.10.24)

Simchat Thora (25.10.24)

Visitor Information

When visiting the Jewish cemetery, male visitors must wear a head covering


Guided Tours

Führung durch das Jüdische Worms in der alten Synagoge (Foto: Bernward Bertram)
Führung durch das Jüdische Worms in der alten Synagoge (Foto: Bernward Bertram)

Public guided tours ( in German only)

This offer is for individual guests and groups up to 6 people.

  • UNESCO World Heritage - the Jewish sites in Worms

Worms, known as “Little Jerusalem on the Rhine”, offers remarkable testimonies to 1000 years of Jewish life. As well as the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Jewish Cemetery “Holy Sands” (the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe) the synagogue and the ritual bath mikveh, the tour also takes in the Jewish quarter in “Judengasse” (“Jews’ Alley”). Outdoor tour only.

Dates: April - October, every 1st and 5th Sunday of the month at 10.30 a.m.

Find more information here.

  • Guided tour of the Jewish cemetery
    "Heiliger Sand"

Tour of the oldest preserved Jewish cemetery in Europe. UNESCO World Heritage Site since 07/21.

> from March till December, always Fridays at 3 pm (NOT on Jewish holidays)

Find more information here.

Guided tours in foreign languages

  • UNESCO World Heritage - the Jewish sites in Worms

Worms, known as “Little Jerusalem on the Rhine”, offers remarkable testimonies to 1000 years of Jewish life. As well as the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Jewish Cemetery “Holy Sands” (the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe) the synagogue and the ritual bath mikveh, the tour also takes in the Jewish quarter in “Judengasse” (“Jews’ Alley”). Outdoor tour only.
Duration: 2 hours

Find more information here

more guided tours:

  • Guided tour of the Jewish cemetery
    "Heiliger Sand"
  • Guided tour of the Jewish Museum in the Rashi House

book your tour now


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